At first glance, it might appear that, upon taking the reins from Schembechler, Moeller had steered Michigan straight down into the middle of the Big Ten pack. But the Wolverines' three defeats in 11 games have come by a total of six points, earning them the distinction of being the nation's best three-loss team. Moeller, who played center and linebacker for Hayes from 1960 to '62, served Schembechler as an assistant for 18 seasons (interrupted by an unhappy three-year stint as head coach at Illinois) before succeeding him last December. Since then, he has put his own stamp on this team. As wideout Desmond Howard's 57 catches and quarterback Elvis Grbac's 17 touchdown throws this season attest, Moeller is not afflicted with Schembechler's—or Hayes's—fundamental mistrust of the forward pass.
Michigan will settle for the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day, but Moeller was not bemoaning his team's fortunes. Toweling off after Saturday's win, he asked a reporter for the Minnesota-Iowa score. Informed that the Golden Gophers were en route to an upset, an expression of boyish hopefulness broke through his usually gruff demeanor. "We can still share the title, you know," he said. " Iowa will still go to the Rose Bowl, but at least we'll have a bunch of guys walking around with championship rings." And so they will.